There are three things we know about headaches:
First, over half of adults have at least one headache per year, according to the World Health Organization.
Second, headaches are often under-diagnosed and under-treated.
And third, it’s pretty hard to find immediate, tried-and-true relief that takes long-term pain away.
If you’re looking for fast relief tips, we have 18 natural remedies. However, if the relief provided is only temporary, you might want to take a closer look at your lifestyle. Headaches can be caused by a whole host of things, including inflammation, sinus infections, or simply genetics.
The trick to holistically curing (almost all) your headaches is to prevent one from happening in the first place.
Recognize the difference between migraines and other headaches Feeling sensations on one side of the head and experiencing other body symptoms? It could be a migraine. Generally, migraine tips can help headaches, but it might not work the other way around. If you’re experiencing severe migraines, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how to prevent and treat them.
So, if you’re ready to reclaim your day, look no further. Follow this three-day fix to holistically clear headaches from your schedule and stop your next one before it starts.
Headaches happen when you least expect them. Common headache triggers include the obvious — like stress and too much alcohol — but they can also be caused by dehydration, bad posture, a lack of sleep, or even strong smells or odors.
What and what not to eat
Avoid any foods you suspect you’re allergic or intolerant to. Food intolerances, like gluten or histamine intolerances, can cause headaches.
Stay hydrated. Advice on how much water you should drink per day varies, but aim for eight 8-ounce glasses per day. Dehydration is a common headache trigger, but it’s important not to over-hydrate as well. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to keep hydrated on the go, and make sure you’re staying hydrated during workouts as well.
Start taking vitamin B-2. Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) might also help prevent headaches, specifically migraines. Research shows that people who took vitamin B-2 experienced fewer headaches per month.
What to do
Try a cold (or hot) compress. Cold therapy can be beneficial for treating migraines, while some — like tension headaches — might respond better to heat. If you don’t prefer one over the other, try alternating between the two.
Discover your triggers. Fixing your headache depends on your trigger, so it’s important to identify them and learn how to cope with them:
- Try taking a 30-minute nap to see if the headache is sleep or stress related.
- Close your eyes to test if the light or eye strain is causing you pain.
- Massage the back of your neck or the bridge of your nose to see if this relieves any headache tension.
Once you find what helps, take a note.
Focus on light exercise. Bad posture is a common headache trigger, so introducing light stretching into your day can help improve your posture, reduce stress, and hopefully lower your headache risk over the long term.
What are headache triggers? According to the American Migraine Foundation, the most common triggers include changes in sleep patterns, everyday stresses, menstrual periods, and weather and travel changes. You might not be able to avoid weather-related headaches, but being proactive can help you reduce their impact on your daily life.
How to sleep
You’ve heard this before: adults (18–64) typically need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. While it might seem like you do that on average, having an off week can contribute to your headaches.
Practice good sleep hygiene. It’s not just about getting sleep — it’s about getting quality sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests cutting out stimulants before bed, establishing a regular bedtime routine, and creating a relaxing environment for sleep.
Support your neck. Early morning headaches may be caused by strained muscles from a poor sleep position. For headaches, sleeping on your back is best — as long as your head is supported properly — while sleeping on your stomach is, unfortunately, not great for neck pain.
If you are dealing with chronic headaches, it’s time to take your response beyond the basics. First, focus on managing triggers to help eliminate potential headaches before they start. From there, it’s all about doing what helps you feel your best.
What and what not to eat
Don’t drink caffeine. Try to avoid drinking caffeine. Studies suggest that too much caffeine (or the aftermath of caffeine withdrawal) can be a recipe for a nasty headache.
Cut back on junk food, food additives (like MSG), and artificial sweeteners. Certain foods can trigger headaches and migraines, so it’s important limit your intake of these foods, especially if you’re more prone to headaches. A 2016 review concluded that MSG and caffeine withdrawal were the most common headache triggers, but aspartame, gluten, histamine, and alcohol were also potential triggers.
Take magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral for our bodies, and one study suggests that having magnesium deficiency can lead to headaches. But too much magnesium also has its side effects, so talk to a doctor before loading up.
Food elimination alternative If you already eat a fairly healthy food plan and suspect that cutting out junk food won’t work, try the elimination diet. When you aren’t sure what foods might be contributing to your headaches, eliminate any foods you suspect and then slowly reintroduce them one at a time.
What to do
Avoid stressful activities. While light exercise can be beneficial for headaches, strenuous workouts like running or weightlifting can make them worse.
Try using essential oils. Diffusing essential oils can help treat headaches. While different oils have different benefits, both peppermint and lavender essential oil are known for helping reduce headaches. Avoid undiluted oils, as concentrated doses may cause side effects like skin irritation.
Reduce neck pain. Give your neck a little love by stretching out the tightness. Try incorporating these yoga poses for neck pain. You can also pinch the back of your neck and massage gently to ease tension.
How to sleep
Use a rolled-up towel. If you’re holding off on getting a custom pillow just yet, rolling up a towel into a tight cylinder and placing it under your neck can help your muscles relax and relieve tension.
Boost your sleep quality. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try drinking one of these colorful milk recipes with dessert or before bed. Need more tips to beat insomnia? Try avoiding evening exercise, cut out caffeine earlier in the day, and minimize your screen time.
If it’s been three days and the pain is still going, there’s more you can do to discover your triggers. There are also steps you can take to rebuild your body’s defense foundation to help prevent or mitigate the next headache.
What and what not to eat
Avoid ice cream. Brain freeze may be connected to chronic headaches, so if you’re treating yourself with frozen foods, try cutting back for a while to see if that makes a difference.
Add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. When you’re stressed, chronic inflammation can happen — meaning headaches definitely aren’t helping the cycle. That why it’s important to avoid foods that can make inflammation worse. Eat foods like dark, leafy greens and berries. They are both on the “pain-safe” foods list, and they’re also anti-inflammatory foods that can help reduce stress.
Eat small, frequent meals. Skipping meals or eating irregularly can mess with your blood glucose levels. To maintain your glucose levels, eat regularly throughout the day.
What to do
Focus on self-care. Chronic tension headaches may come and go, and they’re often caused by stress. Try booking a massage, acupuncture session, or another relaxing activity.
Practice restful yoga. Research suggests that yoga may help increase the body’s production of melatonin, which regulates sleep. If you need help falling asleep, try incorporating some of these yoga poses for insomnia.
How to sleep
Try a neck support pillow. Third day and counting with head pain? It might be time to invest in a new pillow. A small study discovered that orthopedic pillows improved sleep slightly better than standard pillows, but the important thing is to find a pillow that keeps your neck elevated.
Don’t forget to practice good sleep habits. Take sleep hygiene a step further by removing electronics in the bedroom. The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding screen time an hour before bed as well as trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends).
For many of us, headaches may seem inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we should let them become debilitating.
Even small changes — like making sure to wake up at the same time every day — could potentially have a major impact on whether or not you continue to suffer from chronic headaches. And remember, migraines are not the same as headaches, if they are preventing you from
And, in the end, what’s important is that you find the perfect headache relief and prevention strategies that work for you.
Jandra Sutton is a novelist, writer, and social media enthusiast. She’s passionate about helping people live happy, healthy, and creative lives. In her spare time, she enjoys lifting weights, reading, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto will always be a planet in her heart. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.